The former Rare Earths Facility (REF) will finally receive its remaining cleanup touch before it is transferred to the City of West Chicago for use as a new city park. The REF extracted thorium from monazite ore from 1932 to 1973. The operations generated significant quantities of waste materials and contamination of the surrounding areas. Significant decommissioning and cleanup work at the REF have been accomplished since the 1980s, with the final train car carrying thorium-contaminated soil departing the City in November 2015. Following a lengthy and comprehensive cleanup endeavor, all remediated areas were verified to comply with residential-use-based soil cleanup standards.
Although all on-site materials meet cleanup standards, residual constituents such as uranium continue to leach from some of the remediated soil into the shallow groundwater aquifer. The resulting contaminated groundwater in the shallow aquifer does not pose an exposure threat to human health and the environment because it is confined to a small geographical area, its constituent concentrations are declining, and the residential population does not use it. The shallow groundwater is not of sufficient quantity or quality as a source for drinking water or other domestic purposes. Furthermore, the existing laws and regulations prevent and control the use of this groundwater for human consumption and other uses. Groundwater in the deep bedrock aquifers, from which the City of West Chicago derives its water supply, is not impacted by the shallow groundwater contamination at the REF.
The residual occurrence of uranium in groundwater is a direct result of former operations at the
REF and all governing entities involved in the remediation require the contaminated groundwater to be remediated to the extent possible. As a result, the remaining groundwater contamination will be addressed using $36 million in federal funds remaining in the West Chicago Environmental Response Trust. The Environmental Analysis for this remediation phase, currently being drafted by IEMA, will be shared with the local stakeholders in advance of implementation.
Weston Solutions, Inc., not individually but solely in its representative capacity as the Trustee of the West Chicago Environmental Response Trust (WCERT), has begun implementing initial site activities for undertaking the final decommissioning of the REF. This final remediation will take three to five years to complete, after which the land associated with the REF will be conveyed to the City of West Chicago.
In preparation for the property transfer, the City of West Chicago has issued a Request for Proposals to landscape design firms to help the City Council create the park that will be built on the old REF site. Once a landscape design firm has been chosen, a procedure for soliciting public comment will be developed to get meaningful community involvement. This community feedback will be used to shape the final park design. In addition, the City will collaborate and partner with the West Chicago Park District on this initiative.